Apps for well-being and mental health

We use technology to enhance our lives every day by shopping online, keeping up to date with friends and making travel plans, but have you thought about using apps to look after your mental health? Stress is present in all of our lives at varying times but for students this is a particularly stressful point in the year with exams, essays and dissertations due, not to mention MA applications. Managing our wellbeing can largely increase our productivity in times of stress.

There are all sorts of apps being developed all the time so we’ve chosen five of our current favourites.

Please note, whilst these apps can be helpful, they are not a replacement for seeking medical advice if you have concerns about any symptoms you are experiencing.

SAM app: SAM will help you to understand what causes your anxiety, monitor your anxious thoughts and behaviour over time and manage your anxiety through self-help exercises and private reflection.This app has been developed in collaboration with a research team from UWE, Bristol.

SAM app on mobile phone

In Hand: This app has been made by a team of people passionate about technology and destigmatising mental health. They have worked together for nearly a year to create an app that promotes awareness of mental well being and could help you in a moment of anxiety or low mood.

In Hand app

Stay Alive: The first of its kind in the UK, the Stay Alive app is a free, nationwide suicide prevention pocket resource, packed full of useful information to help you stay safe. Their vision is that no one has to contemplate suicide alone, the app is designed to be a lifeline for people at risk of suicide.

Stay Alive app

Stop Breathe Think: A friendly app to guide people through meditations for mindfulness & compassion. Check in with how you’re feeling and try short activities tuned to your emotions.

 Stop, Breathe & Think app

Headspace: Headspace is designed to enourage positivity through meditation. Live a happier, healthier life with just a few minutes of meditation a day.

Headspace app

5 new accessibility features in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update released this month has promised ‘breakthroughs in creativity’ – offering options for mixed reality and faster broadcasting for gaming. But, the update - free until the end of the year - also offers several new and updated accessibility features.

Here we offer a snapshot of those updates and what they offer disabled people.

Microsft's latest OS update provides a range of assistive technologies

Eye Control

A beta version of the much talked about Eye Control is now available. It means those who use eye movements for communication, such as people with physical disabilites, can now combine a compatible eye tracker with Windows 10 to operate an on-screen mouse, keyboard and text-to-speech experience.

New Learning Tools capabilities in Microsoft Edge (the new Internet Explorer)

Microsoft Learning Tools are a set of features designed to make it easier for people with learning differences like dyslexia to read, says Microsoft. In this update, a user can mow simultaneously highlight and listen to text in web pages and PDF documents to read and increase focus.

Dictation on the Desktop



This feature already allowed people with vision, mobility and cognitive disabilities to speak into their microphone, and convert that using Windows Speech Recognition into text that appears on screen. In the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, a person can now use dictation to input text (English only) in a wider variety of ways and applications. As well as dictating text, you can also use voice commands to do basic editing or to input punctuation.

Narrator Screenreader new image descriptions and Magnifier link up

Microsofts screen reader - Narrator - now uses Microsoft Cognitive Services to generate image descriptions for pictures that lack alternative text. For websites or apps that don’t have alt-text built in, this feature will provide quick and accurate descriptions of an image. It's also now possible to use Magnifier with Narrator, so you can zoom in on text and have it read aloud.

Colour Filters for colour blindness colour blindness

Color Filters help those with colour blindness more easily distinguish between colours. All installed software and third-party apps will follow the filter a users sets up. The colour filters are available in greyscale, invert, greyscale inverted, Deuteranopia, Protanopia or Tritanopia.

More information

17 big ways tech is helping disabled people achieve goals: 2016 International Day of Persons with Disabilities #idpd

There are 12 million disabled people in the UK, and an estimated 1.1 billion worldwide. Since 1992 the UN has promoted a day of observance and understanding of disability issue and this year's theme is is 'Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want'. We asked 17 of our followers, supporters and staff about the role of technology can play in achieving current and future life goals.

What is the role of technology in achieving life goals for disabled people?

Prof Stephen Hawking has achieved amazing things in his life thanks to technology

Professor Stephen Hawking

“I was lucky to be born in the computer age, without computers my life would have been miserable and my scientific career impossible. Technology continues to empower people of all abilities and AbilityNet continues to help disabled people in all walks of life.” (2012)

Kate Headley, Director of Consulting, The Clear Company

“As someone who now has limited vision, I can honestly say that technology has been the game changer for me. Although I have no secrets - with large font on phone and computer and I regularly share my texts out loud with fellow passengers. But I am independent at home and at work and just awaiting the driverless car!”

Joanna Wootten: Age, Disability and Inclusion expert at Solutions Included

“Technology has transformed my working life. As a deaf person I can now communicate directly with hearing people using emails, text messages, live messaging, or have conversations with them via Skype or FaceTime.  For larger meetings, the advent of reliable wifi means I can use my mobile phone or tablet to access remote captioning so I don't miss a word."
 

Sarah-Jane Peake, assistive technology trainer, Launchpad Assistive Technology

"Working one-to-one with students, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the wonderful impact technology can make to someone with a disability or specific learning disabilities. The confidence of being able to proof-read an essay using text-to-speech, the independence offered by voice recognition software that finally allows a student to fully express their ideas, or the relief felt by a student who has just discovered mind-mapping strategies that compliment the way they think. Technology is changing people’s lives."
 

Sean Douglas

Sean Douglas, founder of dyslexia podcast The Codpast

"There's masses of tech out there that allows people with disabilities to reach their full potential. Long gone are the days when assistive tech was cumbersome, expensive and specialist, now your smart phone can give you much of the help you need to deal with everyday tasks you may find difficult. "Surprisingly a lot of this assistive functionality is built into your phone's operating system or is available from third parties for free or for a small charge."

Georgina Eversfield Tanner, client of AbilityNet's ITCanHelp volunteering service

I've never had a computer before, but it's opened up a whole new world since my stroke. But I did say one day to Andy, my ITCanHelp volunteer from AbilityNet, 'what idiot put Angry Birds on there. There are so many of them and I'm absolutely hooked! Technology and AbilityNet has helped me tremendously to be in the modern world." See more of Georgina here in our video. 

Gareth Ford WIlliams is Head of Accessibility at BBC Design and Engineering

Gareth Ford Williams, Head of Accessibility, BBC Design and Engineering

“For many disabled people, a simple daily goal is to enjoy the same entertainment options. For video and TV that could mean captioning or audio descriptions, or using the text to speech features in their computer or phone to read out newspapers, magazines or blogs.”

Abbie Osborne, Assessor for AbilityNet

“Education is a vital way for disabled people to achieve their goals. I work with many students who face cognitive impairments such as dyslexia and dyspraxia, which make it difficult for them to organise their thoughts.

"Zotero is one of the most popular free tools I recommend. It takes the pain out of managing references when you’re working on essays and reports and integrates with Microsoft Word to use those references in whichever style you require. It works for Mac and PC, creates an alphabetical list of your sources (bibliography) and can keep track across multiple essays.”

Robin ChristophersonRobin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion, AbilityNet

“Technology helps everyone reach their full potential. Like nothing else on this planet, technology can embrace people’s differences and provide choice – choice to suit everyone and empower them to achieve their goals both at work and at play. On this day, please raise the cheer for technology and digital inclusion, wherever in the world you are.”

Morgan Lobb, Director, Diversity Jobs

“Assistive technology makes a real difference, without spellchecker I’d be doomed!”

Nicola Whitehill

Nicola Whitehill - founder of Facebook Group: Raynauds Scleroderma Awareness

“The internet is a lifeline for me. I'm under house arrest with Raynauds, but I still run a global community in my pyjamas!”

Nigel Lewis, CEO of AbilityNet

“Accessible technology can really help disabled people live their lives fuller, let’s all work together to make tech accessible and inclusive on this #idpd and always.”

Sarah Simcoe - chair of SEED Network, Fujitsu UK and Ireland

“Technology plays an important part in building an environment of accessibility and enablement – the use of tools, software and hardware in enabling disabled talent to fulfill their full potential is key to innovation and business growth.”

Hector Minto, Accessibility Evangelist, Microsoft

“There are so many things: Social media and the cloud's ability to connect us all and find people who can relate to our experience. Text communication and short messages are a great leveler. Images and video convey messages much more quickly. Twitter chats, blogs, Facebook Groups, LinkedIn groups all offer professionals with huge amounts of experience somewhere to share their knowledge. 

"It's all part of the Global Cloud for Good agenda - we need to understand Industrial Revolution 4.0 - the Internet of Things, and automation for example - and our place in it. We need a socially responsible cloud which improves life for everyone and leaves nobody behind.

"Finally I still think eyegaze as a direct control method needs to be tried first for people with physical access issues. The price is changing and the previously held view that it was only for those that had tried everything else is completely out of date but pervasive.”

Bela Gor is a Disability Legal Adviser at Business Disability ForumBela Gor, Disability Legal Adviser, Business Disability Forum

“In twenty years of disability discrimination legislation, the biggest change has been that what was once impossible or unreasonably difficult is now entirely possible - because of technology. Technology means that the way we all live and work has changed immeasurably and 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled people have become the ordinary way of life for everyone because of the technology on our desks, in our pockets and in our homes and workplaces.”

Kate Nash OBE, founder of PurpleSpace community of disability employee networks

"At PurpleSpace we are massive advocates of virtual networking and learning. While our members have a wide range of disabilities, the accessibility features built into smartphones, tablets and PCs mean that we can keep in touch and share career development opportunities on an equal level regardless of the different ways that we access technologies."

Ed Holland leads Driven MediaEdward Hollands, founder of Driven Media UK

“I use lots of assistance software to over come my spelling and grammar issues to look more professional as a founder. I don't write anything without Grammarly now. It's like having my own copywriter! Anyone who is dyslexic should definitely get it.”

How can AbilityNet help you make the most of tech?

AbilityNet staff gain national volunteer management qualification

AbilityNet staff have completed a national qualification in volunteer management to support their work with a network of over 8,000 volunteers with IT skills. This will help them support the continued growth of the volunteer network, who help meets the IT needs of charities and disabled people. Volunteer Administrator Josie Ray and Advice and Information Officer Alex Barker have both been awarded the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Certification.

“It made sense to study for this qualification as AbilityNet works closely with volunteers” said Alex. "We have a UK-wide team of volunteers who provide home visits for disabled people in the community. They are all CRB/Disclosure checked and can help with all kinds of technical issues, from installing broadband and removing viruses to setting up new software and backups. We also have a network of IT professionals who provide IT support to charities, including web design, databases and troubleshooting and helping to reduce costs and improve services. ”

Volunteering manager Anne Stafford said “It is important to AbilityNet that we deliver high standards & our volunteers are important members of our team. I am pleased that our staff have the opportunity to demonstrate their professionalism in volunteer engagement.”

More information:

Mind the Digital Gap: AbilityNet proposes new digital inclusion strategy

In our increasingly digital self-service economy technology now dominates shopping, entertainment, work and communication, as well as citizenship itself, but age and disability are barring people from full participation. Organisations like AbilityNet, Go ON UK and its disability focused partner, Go ON Gold, are making great strides to close the gap between the computer literate and the technologically disenfranchised, but the gulf is wider than that. 

AbilityNet’s new digital inclusion strategy ‘Mind the Digital Gap’ looks at the obstacles faced by the huge numbers of people who struggle to use digital technologies that are badly designed and just don't meet their needs. AbilityNet believes that we urgently need to recognise the social and economic costs of this digital gap, and identify clear actions to begin closing it.

Mind the Digital Gap logoThe strategy was launched at the House of Commons on 21 November at a reception hosted by Anne McGuire MP, Shadow Minister for Disabled People. It calls for better design practices through implementing user-focused testing at all stages of the design of digital systems (rather than relying on post-hoc accessibility checks).

AbilityNet urges those who commission and build online services, operating systems and digital devices (whether business, government or third sector) to put a user-centred approach at the heart of the design process. The strategy also proposes tax incentives to promote inclusive design, closer partnerships between business and other sectors and a commitment to embed inclusive design at all levels of professional design education.

AbilityNet CEO Nigel Lewis says it's time to change how we design and deliver inclusive digital systems:

"For too long the debate about accessibility has focused on issues that are specific to disabled people, but testing a website after it has been built, or pursuing legal action to ensure that every website includes alt-tags for people who use a screen reader, just isn't working.

“There is a much more important strategic issue at stake and we need a new approach that goes beyond what we currently think of as ‘Accessibility’. To close that gap, it’s imperative that business, government and the third sector work together."

AbilityNet patron and chair of Go ON UK Martha Lane Fox agrees and believes that in addition to making design practices more inclusive we need to focus equipping people with the skills they need to participate in the digital age:

"Both Go ON UK and AbilityNet are working on building digital skills to enable everyone to benefit as much as possible from available technology."

The full strategy is available for download on the AbilityNet website.

 

Anne McGuire MP and Nigel Lewis of AbilityNet at the launch of AbilityNet's Mind the Digital Gap, House of Commons, November 2012'

Shadow Minister for Disabled People Anne McGuire with AbilityNet CEO Nigel Lewis at the reception at the House of Commons.

See more pictures from the event on Flickr

Websites and apps: How to make accessibility user-friendly

By Katherine Talbot, senior accessibility and usability consultant at AbilityNet (pictured)

Katherine TalbotWe’ve had many years of experience in making websites and apps more accessible for our clients across a range of sectors, from banks to airports, charities and government. Sometimes clients are unclear about the different between usability and accessibility. And, it can be confusing because they’re similar, yet different.

Good accessibility does not guarantee a website will also be user-friendly. But if you want a website which is user-friendly, it needs to be as accessible as possible to a wide range of people. This includes people with different visual abilities as well as blindness, those who are deaf or have hearing impairment, people who have cognitive or physical disabilities and ‘differabilities’.

Legal issues around inaccessible websites

No two people are the same, but we can test websites with as wide a range of people as possible, fully including people with different abilities and conditions. There are nearly 14 million people with a disability in the UK (https://www.scope.org.uk/media/disability-facts-figures) and that’s a lot of customers/ visitors to lose if a website doesn’t get things right. Currently, many do not get it right and the government looks likely to take a more serious look at those who fail to take web accessibility into account

It’s important to note, however, that we can work hard to make a website as accessible as possible - ticking all the boxes of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) but that might not in itself lead to a great user experience for site visitors. Both usability and accessibility need to be taken into account to maximise reach and fulfil legal and moral obligations. 

Disabled user-testing? Will you pass?

AbilityNet works with focus-groups of disabled people in its user-testing work for clients. Testers try various tasks on websites to see how clear and easy they are to complete. If you don’t have the resource to do this for your website, you can do remote interviews with people with disabilities and you could also watch Youtube videos of people with disabilities testing out websites to see what sort of features and issues are frustrating or difficult to work with.

Often there are very simple ways to change things for the better, and the earlier you can do this in the process of creating your site or re-designing it, the better. Changing things later can be more difficult and costly. 

High, medium and low priority issues

We work on a high, medium and low priority rating around how essential certain changes are. If a person who is blind and using a screenreader has no way of opening a link, that is a high priority issue and is important to change.

Medium priorities are features that can be accessed by a disabled person but those features are still really tricky and difficult to access. If things are too much of a struggle, people will click away.

Issues we’d place on the low list are items that are irritating and pointless but don’t render the site inaccessible. For example, perhaps a screenreader will announce a full list of links on a site where it only needs to announce one. Issues like this do make the user journey frustrating and so have a bearing on usability but will not fail the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

It really is worth taking the time to make sure your website is a pleasant and worthwhile experience for visitors, especially if you’re in a competitive market place or have a civic duty to ensure the public can access important information. 

To find out more about making your website accessible, click here. 

Embed inclusive design to reach a wider audience, says AbilityNet expert

AbilityNet’s accessibility and disability consultant Raphael Clegg-Vinell challenged delegates at the London Chapter of World Interaction Design Day last month to think about inclusive design differently.

Often apps and websites - even those run by large companies - do not adhere to inclusive design principles and end up excluding many thousands of potential customers. “I wanted to get across that inclusive design is a different concept to accessibility,” said Raphael. “Often clients come to us late in the development of a site or app and we can make small tweaks to make sure they adhere to accessibility guidelines. We will look at how they can make things technically accessible for people who are blind or deaf for example. "

It's impossible to design for everyone

“But with inclusive design, from very early on, you’re looking at how you can design for as many people as possible. Inclusive design is about accepting you can’t design something which works for absolutely everyone, but looking at your audience and designing for as many people as possible. We don’t mean just for apps and websites, but for services too such as checkouts, for example.

"Some obvious points might be to not have lots of buttons very near to each other on a screen. If someone struggles with dexterity for whatever reason - they could have a disability, less mobility with old age, but perhaps even long fingernails could be an issue. It makes sense to put more space between buttons and therefore design for a much wider number of people.”  

workshop participants at the IxDA meetup

Raphael was joined by Dr Madeleine Pritchard, a research fellow and speech and language therapist at City, University of London. Together they challenged participants at the event co-run by Adobe and the London chapter of the Interaction Design Association ( IxDA) to redesign an app using inclusive design principles. 

Cognitive disabilities and accessibility

They presented some of the key differences between accessibility and inclusive design and progressed to look more specifically at cognitive disabilities and accessibility. “Cognitive disabilities and accessibility is something that’s often overlooked,” said Raphael. “We explored the subject and participants were given exercises to demonstrate what happens when each of us comes into contact with interfaces, particularly when they’re complex and busy.  

workshop attendees were presented with challenges that required inclusive thinking

“Workshop attendees were then given a design challenge focusing on re-designing an app to benefit people in a range of environments and with different access needs.”

The IxDA, which leads the day, has over 200 local groups globally and over 100,000 individuals. It brings together interaction designers and people interested in the discipline from all sorts of different job roles.

Raphael said: “The day was a great success. Positively, inclusion and diversity in design has been gaining lots of traction recently and many companies are starting to realise the benefits it brings to their business and brand. Personally, myself and Madeleine were pleased with the workshop we ran and we received lots of kind feedback afterwards. We look forward to the next Interaction Design Day.”

More information

Seven apps to help reduce anxiety at University

The Students' Union at the University of Manchester recently voted to drop clapping, whooping and cheering in favour of "jazz hands" to help reduce anxiety amongst people for whom social situations can be very stressful. We've seen a big increase in stress and mental health issues in the work we do supporting students so we recognise what an impact this can have on a person's studies.

We also know that many people don't realise how technology can help reduce stress and help them feel more in control of their studies. A student using an app on their mobile phone

Change brings stress

According to the Guardian up to a third of the population will experience an anxiety disorder or panic attacks at some point in their life. Levels of stress and anxiety can change when we least expect it - but most people report an increase when they’re in a new environment, such as starting university.

It's understandable that students may feel overwhelmed with deadlines, a change of location, managing finances and the pressures of maintaining a good work/life balance. But, there are ways to help minimise the stress. 

Useful apps and advice for anxiety

1. Exercise

Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and the Nike+ training app is a comprehensive and stylish app. It offers workouts of varying endurance, mobility and strength, from short, 15-minute workouts to longer endurance sessions, so you can constantly change up your workout and keep it exciting.

2. Take time out

The Calm app can help teach the skill of meditation, help encourage restful sleep, provides information on mindful movement and offers music to help you focus and relax. 

Adult colouring books are all the rage, and Colorfy puts a digital twist on this calming technique, choose from a range of images from flowers to cute animals, just tap the section and colour away.  

3. Planning and organising

Google Keep is an electronic post-it notes app that can make simple text notes and checklists - you can take pictures, use the touchscreen for handwriting/sketch input and record short voice memos. It has a nice, visual, tile-based interface and synchronises between app and the web. It also has location-based reminders, so you can set a note to notify you when you are in a specific location; your shopping list can ping you when you are in town, or the question you scribbled down to ask a lecturer will ping you when you are on campus.

4. Mental health support

Your Students Union will be loaded with plenty of useful help, advice and knowledge of local groups where you can talk with like-minded people. You can also contact Student Minds the UK's student mental health charity, they aim to 'transform the state of student mental health so that all in higher education can thrive'.

5. Finance management

Monzo is a new way of managing your banking. A few friends have tried this and are very happy about the positive money management it gives them. You can set spending targets as monthly targets for spending on things like groceries and going out.

Monzo banking app works on iphone and android

You'll be able to see an overview of your account any time, sorted by what you spend on, with notifications if you’re spending too fast. It also appears to be great for travels, if you're lucky enough to have a break away during your studies, you can use the card all around the world. 

6. Advice for accessible events

Events like a Students Union meeting can be a minefield for all sorts of reasons. Most people would understand the need to make rooms wheelchair accessible, but there are many other issues to consider. From removing physical barriers to avoiding loud music, we've pulled together our best top tips for accessible events 

7. Extra help for students in Higher Education

Don't forget that students with anxiety may be eligible for the Disabled Student Allowances (DSAs) these are grants to help meet the extra course costs students face because of a disability or learning difference. DSAs are paid on top of the standard student finance package, or on their own. 

You don't have to pay DSAs back and they're not counted as income when working out whether you get benefits or Tax Credits.


Use our free HE support checker to see whether you could be eligible for DSAs or other support.


How can AbilityNet help?

8 ways universities can be more accessible and inclusive

Ian Carter

As a student services manager at Brighton University, Ian Carter’s (pictured) role includes responsibility for inclusive practice and disability, ensuring that disabled students can learn in the best possible environment across the university’s five campuses.

At least 11% of the UK University’s 24,000 students are registered disabled, meaning that 11 in every 100 could have a disability advisor and funding to support their studies and extra provision. But with government cutting back on disabled student funds, universities are having to make their environments more inclusive for disabled students in order to keep up or improve their reputation and maintain / increase student satisfaction.

Below, Ian offers his tips and advice for universities and staff looking to become more inclusive, from moving some module assessments online to allow students to take exams in their own time and by their own methods, and offering pre-term gaming nights for students on the autism spectrum to feel more at ease.

1. Check whether the learning environment is inclusive 

Where possible we try to follow the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which means providing as many different options as possible for students with their learning, eg allowing students with anxiety to provide video recorded presentations or not assessing grammar and spelling for students with dyslexia.

We identify problems inherent in the curriculum. I.e., if there is only one assessment style for a course, for example - one three hour exam - this could provide complexities for large numbers of the cohort.

Some students might require a room by themselves because they need to use speech-to-text to give their answers. Other students might have an assistant with them to help read questions. And we might need a separate hall for students with dyslexia to have extra time. The UDL model instead looks at removing barriers to make things inclusive for everyone. 

2. Look at whether online assessments would be more appropriate 

Our MBA attracts a very diverse mix of students in terms of age, background and disabilities and some modules now use an online assessment instead of a three-hour open book exam. We feel this suits the needs of a larger number of the students.

The assessment is open online for a whole weekend to give students in different time zones, some of who are working full time, the space to complete. It means those who need a reader or to use speech-to-text, or more time, can have it without us making extra provision.

Tutors also know the students and their abilities, so can use their own judgement on whether a student is capable of the work that’s been submitted. We’ve had brilliant feedback with doing this the last three years, and are now considering how appropriate this method might be for other open book exams. 

3. Professional bodies might be more flexible about courses than you realise

A lot of courses are set by the professional standards bodies in those sectors, i.e. the National Council for the Training of Journalists sets the course outline for journalism courses. Departments often believe that these courses are unchangeable, but we’ve found that lots of professional bodies are very willing to have conversations about how the learning environment can be made inclusive.

For example, it used to be the case that all newspaper journalism students had to pass a shorthand exam. The Equalities Act has helped open things up and promoted conversations about what is suitable for different students. It’s still the case that 80% of journalism students will pass their shorthand, but everyone recognises that there are other methods of note taking if the student struggles with shorthand because of a disability. 

4. The National Association of Disability Practitioners (NADP) has a lot of learning to share

I’m one of thirteen directors of the NADP, which has around 1300 members. We use a JISC mail group for members where a lot of great advice and best practise is shared about how to support disabled students. We’ll share case studies and situations to glean knowledge of what’s working. 

5. Make sure any new facilities are created with inclusivity in mind

Often we are tinkering around the edges with changing things within the current structure, but with new and refurbished teaching rooms we can consider various lecture capture options so that more students have easy access to lectures and lecture notes.

We still have more than 300 rooms that are not new and where possible we allow students to use their mobile devices to record and to take photos. Most PowerPoint presentations are put up on the student intranet before lectures.

students chatting at study tables with library books in background

We say that lecturers should allow students to record lectures if they want to, but they don’t have to if there are concerns around DPR or confidentiality. There are 2000 academics at the university and everyone has different ways of working. It’s difficult to enforce the same rules with everyone. 

6. Talk to your IT advisors for help on accessibility and inclusivity

You can make use of IT in classroom to increase inclusivity. Our academics talk to our IT advisors about how they can adapt the environment and use technology in the best possible way for all students. 

7 Make use of outside resources and experts

Adam Tweed, disability support advisor at AbilityNet came in to talk to us about apps and tech we could use to support student’s mental health and other disabilities. Thirteen staff including a number from our IT department came to this and it proved very useful. 

8. Going the extra mile with supporting disabled students

Five years ago we started offering students on the autism spectrum the opportunity to come and stay with friends or family for a residential, ahead of beginning university. At the time we only had about 10 students identifying as being on the spectrum, but numbers have increased.

We hold a gaming night and by the end of the night the students have usually made friends and set up a WhatsApp or Facebook group. We also support a self-managed social group for students on the autism spectrum called the ‘A’ Team which helps fund different social events chosen by members.

Further reading

Apps for dyslexia at university

There are some fantastic support resources available for students with dyslexia; support that is likely to be equally useful to students without dyslexia. World Dyslexia Awareness Week 2018 is taking place from October 1st - 7th and this year's theme being #21stCenturyDyslexia.

In support of World Dyslexia Awareness Week we’ve pulled together some apps, advice and support we think is most valuable to students with dyslexia.A desk with technology, books and a coffee placed on it Ten percent of the population are dyslexic; four percent severely so, according to the British Dyslexia Association. That is around one in every 10 people and estimated to be approximately six million people in the UK.

Like other learning differences such as dyspraxia and dyscalculia, dyslexia is linked with brain wiring, it does not affect intelligence. Dyslexia causes a change in abilities with learning, reading and writing. But, we believe dyslexia should not be the reason to stop anyone from going to university.

Dyslexia's known characteristics

Dyslexia has been linked to some exceptional positive characteristics including advanced creativity, great problem-solving skills, a lively imagination and a holistic approach to projects, all fantastically employable skills. There are many great leaders too who speak openly about their dyslexia and are brilliant role models for us all, these include Richard Branson, Stephen Spielberg and Bill Gates, all people who embraced their skills and have made fundamental impacts within their industries.

It is important to emphasise that every student's needs will be unique to them and no two students with dyslexia will require the same initial support, it's good to try a range of apps and see which ones work for each individual.

It's certainly understandable that on top of the anxiety we all experience from new environments that students with dyslexia would be apprehensive about putting themselves in a new academic environment. But, this really needn't be a barrier for furthering education.

Three popular apps for Dyslexia

microsoft To Do - From work to play, To-Do is the easiest way to get stuff done, every day.

  1. Microsoft to do: Still in it's early-days on this but it appears to be potentially very powerful. It can be used as a simple to-do list with items added and ticked off when complete, but it will also integrate with Outlook to recognise when you write something like “I’ll get that to you Thursday” and will ask you if you would like this added to your list for completion on Thursday. It also reports to intelligently suggest priorities
  2. Study ambiance: This app is available on Android only but has a selection of background noise tracks ranging from the crackle of a fireplace to the sound of light rain. There are six tracks available o ffline and many more online ranging from ‘thunderstorm’ to ‘library’. You can listen to the tracks on their own or combine each of them with a choice of piano, guitar, music box or Alpha waves. Alternatively you can try Noisili, a free online alternative. 
  3. Office Lens: This free app from Microsoft turns your phone into a ‘smart’ scanner correcting perspective in a capture so as to crop a picture to fill the screen; this is useful for handwritten notes but also captures of information from whiteboards for example. You are then able to save as a picture, as a pdf, save to online storage (OneDrive) or into the free notetaking OneNote. The iOS version is also able to access the Immersive Reader feature of the Microsoft Learning Tools and will therefore read out text in close to realtime.

Don't forget that students with dyslexia may be eligible for the Disabled Student Allowances (DSA) these are grants to help meet the extra course costs students face because of a disability. DSAs are paid on top of the standard student finance package, or on their own. You don't have to pay DSAs back and they're not counted as income when working out whether you get benefits or Tax Credits. You can see if you’re eligible for DSA’s with our free HE support checker.

AbilityNet can help

Whether you are a student, student adviser, parent or guardian we can help: